Category Archives: academy awards

The Annual Hollywood Train Wreck

What is wrong with the Oscars?

If we were really going to answer that question, we would need a much bigger blog, but if we were to focus on the televised history of the annual Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Awards ceremony, we would point to the sheer tediousness of the production.

All the creative talent available to Hollywood, and somehow, when they celebrate themselves and their achievements in the past year, they manage to make it into a boring train wreck. Every year. And they know it.

This year, the writers at the Wall Street Journal forced themselves to watch over 18 hours worth of the Academy Awards ceremony, much of it from last year, where they identified several aspects of the low-rated televised ceremony that just drag on and on for viewers, and found one in particular that stood out.

Last year’s Oscars show was the longest telecast in years, and also the lowest-rated one ever. Coincidence? Doubtful.
Such long nights—last year’s ran nearly four hours—help explain why the length of this year’s show is one of Hollywood’s biggest preoccupations.

Amid this awards-season angst, The Wall Street Journal set out to calculate precisely why the Oscars are so long. In the amount of time we spent viewing Oscar shows from 2014 to 2018, logging the number of minutes eaten up by speeches, songs, crowd shots and other staples of the annual broadcast, we could have plowed through the entire “Godfather” trilogy. Twice.

Which activities take up the most time? One of the most surprising revelations: Walking. Viewers watch an average 24 minutes of celebrities and winners walking to and from the stage. The figure is made primarily of victors ambling up to receive awards, as well as the generally quicker strides of presenters strolling to the microphone and guests heading offstage. This year, the academy is trying to curtail the walking shots, which can include cutaways of clapping celebrities, by urging winners to move more quickly.

Short of using a time delay and then speeding through ceremony's many time-filling Roger Corman-esque walking scenes the way the Keystone Kops were featured in films over a hundred years ago, which admittedly would be more entertaining, especially if they brought the Keystone Kops back to accelerate the action, it's not going to work. There's just too much else that's wrong and makes the ceremony unbearably long. Not having a capable host is going to hurt, to name just one new problem the Oscars will have this year.

They really owe an apology to Kevin Hart.

Previously on Political Calculations

Better Movies Than The Best Picture

Academy Award - Source:

With the 90th Academy Awards set to be broadcast this weekend, movie lovers around the world are bracing for yet another poorly written, inappropriately political and excessively pretentious four-or-more hour long commercial for the film that will be crowned with the title of being named the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' "Best Picture" in 2018.

But what if the members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences get it wrong?

Let's face some hard facts. These arty types have completely blown it in years past, where dare we say that every other movie nominated for the Academy's top award in some years was better than the motion picture that actually won.

And we can prove it! Starting with Business Insider's ranking of the worst-to-best movies that won "Best Picture" (or "Outstanding Production" as it was called in the Academy's earliest days), which they based on the combined score of Rotten Tomatoes' critics and audience scores for each Best Picture winner, we went the extra mile to see how the other, non-winning nominees for Best Picture fared by the same ranking system compared to the film that won in the same year.

What we found is that for the five worst ranked Best Picture winners, all the same-year competing nominees outscored the movie that won the Oscar. We've presented our results in the following table, where whenever possible, we've not only identified the movie that *should* have won the Oscar in each of these years, we've also linked to where you can watch the movies on Amazon Prime to see for yourself. Because if we're being honest, that will probably be a more rewarding experience that watching this year's Academy Awards ceremony.

Better Movies than the Academy Awards' "Best Picture"
Rank Oscar Year Best Picture Winner (Rotten Tomatoes' Critics Score/Audience Score) Better Alternatives (Also Nominated for Best Picture, But Inexplicably Lost)
The Worst Ever 1930 The Broadway Melody (35%/21%) In Old Arizona (56%/40%)
Alibi (43%/43%)
The Patriot (Unreviewed/57%)
Hollywood Revue (40%/17%)
2nd Worst Ever 1953 The Greatest Show on Earth (44%/55%) High Noon (96%/89%)
The Quiet Man (90%/91%)
Moulin Rouge (75%/90%)
Ivanhoe (79%/65%)
3rd Worst Ever 1932 Cimarron (53%/25%) The Front Page (92%/64%)
Skippy (100%/54%)
Trader Horn (100%/33%)
East Lynne (Unreviewed/Unreviewed)
4th Worst Ever 1985 Out of Africa (57%/83%) The Color Purple (88%/94%)
Witness (92%/80%)
Kiss of the Spider Woman (88%/81%)
Prizzi's Honor (88%/62%)
5th Worst Ever 1934 Cavalcade (61%/26%) I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (100%/91%)
Lady for a Day (100%/79%)
The Private Life of Henry VIII (100%/74%)
Little Women (92%/77%)
42nd Street (95%/65%)
A Farewell to Arms (92%/52%)
She Done Him Wrong (90%/53%)
Smilin' Through (Unreviewed/81%)
State Fair (Unreviewed/60%)

Aside from the really depressing realization of how many of these movie titles have been remade over the years, it's really quite stunning to discover just how bad that some of Hollywood's "Best Pictures" have been. Especially when compared to how good the "losing" nominated films of the same year have proven to be.

And yet, no matter how bad they were, they're still better to watch than the Academy Awards broadcast from any year!

Update: Via RealClearLife, Oscar Winner May Not Really Be Best Picture - you may be surprised at how deep the list of disappointing winners goes, and also by how much it extends into the present!

Previously on Political Calculations

Between Blade Runner and Blade Runner 2049

The production team behind the Blade Runner 2049 movie opening in theaters today had a lot of creative energy to spare. So much so that they put together three shorts to explain what major events happened from the end of the original Blade Runner, which was set in the Los Angeles of 2019, and the beginning of the new motion picture.

The first short, at least in chronological order if not the order the shorts were released, features the animation work of Shinichiro Watanabe, who is perhaps best known for the Cowboy Bebop anime series, starts the ball rolling for what happened to Los Angeles - Blade Runner Black Out 2022:

The second short features Jared Leto's character, Niander Wallace, whose company was allowed to produce new replicants after a decade of prohibition - Blade Runner 2036: Nexus Dawn:

The third short follows Dave Battista's character, Sapper Morton, whose actions set the immediate stage for what happens in the new movie - Blade Runner 2048: Nowhere to Run:

Where was this movie all summer long?

Missing from Movies This Summer: Fun!

Summer 2017 is turning out to be something of a disappointment at the cineplex. So, with that thought in mind, we're going to do what millions of teens this summer are doing and turning to YouTube for the kind of fun that used to come with Hollywood's biggest blockbusters, but which seems to be in too short of supply this summer. Enjoy!...

But wait, we have a double feature!

In other, important entertainment news, Hollywood director Joel Schumacher has finally apologized for Batman and Robin, which almost completely counteracted all that was good at the movies in the summer of 1997.

The Dismal Oscars and How China Can Make Hollywood Make Better Movies

Academy Award - Source:

We made it another year without having to suffer through watching the annual abomination that is the Academy Awards ceremony this past Sunday, where Moonlight was declared to be 2016's Best Picture after La La Land was.

The blame for the Best Picture snafu apparently lay with Hollywood's accountants, who had broken away from their regular work and also their regular Sunday-night game of Three Card Monte to hand out cards in sealed envelopes identifying this year's "winners" to people who are professionally trained to read whatever words are put in front of them while on stage. So it couldn't possibly have been the Academy Awards' producers fault, because who could possibly have foreseen that such a thing could happen during a live televised broadcast? Especially after those four other times....

That wasn't even the day's only disaster. Earlier, a "giant prop" used as part of a background set for a performance number at this year's Academy Awards crashed down onto the stage, ripping a large curtain and crushing a camera during a break in the event's rehearsals. So far, nobody has fingered the Hollywood accountants as also being behind that incident, but fortunately, at least no one was injured.

And then, there was the untimely premature death announcment for Australian movie producer Jan Chapman, which came in the form of her photograph appearing during the Oscar's "In Memoriam" segment, where she had been misidentified as Australian costume designer Janet Patterson, who sadly did pass away back in October 2015. The auditors from PriceWaterhouseCooper couldn't be reached for comment regarding their potential involvement in that mix up.

These three incidents demonstrating exceptionally poor quality control on the part of the producers of the 89th Annual Academy Awards were in *addition* to all the mundane things that make the annual Academy Awards televised broadcast such an awful viewing experience year after year, most of which are actually planned to happen. We knew better than to watch it before the broadcast began, but considering what happened, we're even more against the idea of investing any amount of time to watch future Academy Award presentations.

If this were baseball, what happened at the 89th Academy Awards would be strikes one, two and three against Hollywood's producers. If we were looking to invest money to make either money or art by making motion pictures, we would rank the idea of doing that behind the opportunity to buy Turkish bonds at ground floor prices.

Speaking of which, what kind of people actually invest money to make movies these days?

Increasingly, the generic answer to that question in recent years has been "Chinese investors", where a lot of money has been cashed out of China's economy to fund both movie productions and the acquisitions of Hollywood movie studios. In return for that largesse, Hollywood's producers have become especially accommodating to Chinese interests.

These deals have sparked concern over whether China’s expanding influence in Hollywood could lead to more pro-Chinese propaganda in U.S. films. The Chinese government tightly controls media content, and Hollywood studios have been known to alter films to feature China or the Chinese government in a more flattering light to gain access to the country’s lucrative film market.

If you were to go out into today's movie theatres to see the result of that influence, you would need to look no further than The Great Wall starring Matt Damon, which may be considered to be a prime example of the intersection of Hollywood movies that were purposefully made to satisfy the Chinese government's sensibilities. The good news, if you can call it that, is that despite its bad reviews, it is reportedly much more watchable than the annual Academy Awards ceremony.

While the movie did alright financially in China, it got bad reviews in that country, even though it was crafted specifically for it. Meanwhile, two weeks into its run, it's clear that it won't be making much money from American audiences.

Hollywood is in desperate need of a turnaround artist to fix its multitude of problems. But can its current predicament, where poor quality defines its intended blockbuster products and absolutely permeates the televised award show where it purports to recognize the best work done within the motion picture industry, even be fixed at this point?

Believe it or not, the answer may lie with the Chinese government, who in its desire to halt the flight of capital from that country, is cracking down on Chinese businessmen to keep them from making "irrational" overseas investments in Hollywood film productions, among other unseemly investments, where they suspect that the investments are merely a means for moving large sums of money outside of the government's control.

Responding to the still-hypothetical question asked by Hollywood Reporter in response to that developing crack down, "What if China's money stream stops flowing to Hollywood?", Ed Driscoll speculated that the end of that flow of cash into Hollywood's odd accounting system might actually lead to better quality movies:

Movies might suck less, for one thing, since their plots and dialogue are often dumbed for foreign consumption — not to mention censored as well to placate the Chinese government. Or as even urban haute bourgeois* left Vanity Fair asked in August, "Did You Catch All the Ways Hollywood Pandered to China This Year?"

But would Hollywood movies not made to specifically pass muster with China's government do more poorly at the box office in that country?

There is an interesting example from the biggest money-making movie of 2016: Captain America: Civil War, which not only dominated the U.S. box office, it dominated box offices around the world, including in China.

Better still, it drew strongly positive reviews that praised the movie's intelligence:

Critics Consensus: Captain America: Civil War begins the next wave of Marvel movies with an action-packed superhero blockbuster boasting a decidedly non-cartoonish plot and the courage to explore thought-provoking themes.

If you go down the list of 2016's top money making films, you'll find similar global box office results and critical summaries for movies like Finding Dory, Zootopia and The Jungle Book, which all earned considerably more money overseas than they did in the United States while they were also critically praised for their thoughtful qualities.

The only exception in the Top 5 grossing moving of 2016 is Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, which wasn't cited for many thoughtful qualities by critics. And in fact, Rogue One was the only movie in the year's Top 30 that made more money in the U.S. than it did overseas.

Dumbing down a movie script to make it more appealing to another country's cinematic censors is the wrong way to go if Hollywood producers are really in the business of making entertaining or thought-provoking movies that make money. All things considered after this year's multiple Academy Awards fiascos however, we wonder if Hollywood's producers should even be considered to be part of the entertainment industry. If we had to guess, we would think that they're really in some form of organized crime, because that makes more sense than the accounting system they use.